Museums tend go together with food, drink and chat, which is why the Contemporary Austin is collaborating with chef-owner Sarah McIntosh to add the Épicerie at the Contemporary to its location on the grounds of Laguna Gloria.
The café will slip into the new gateway area for the villa, completed by philanthropist Clara Driscoll in 1916, that now sits in the Marcus Sculpture Park. Construction on the entryway project, designed by Trahan Architects of New Orleans after landscape architects Reed Hilderbrand of Boston completed a 2013 master plan for the wooded site, is already underway.
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Located not far from the group’s popular Art School, the café is destined to draw visitors with its sandwiches, salads, soups, cheeses and baked goods as well as coffee and wine, not unlike the McIntosh’s Épicerie in the Rosedale neighborhood. Picnic packages will be available.
“I’ve thought a lot about the sculpture park‘s visitors and the students of the Art School at Laguna Gloria who attend classes over and over again. I was an art major in college, so this really does come full circle for me,” said McIntosh, known for French-Cajun comfort food. “A light bite, a cup of coffee, or a bottle of wine split by two is the perfect accompaniment to a day strolling the sculpture park grounds. The second location of Épicerie was much debated, and when this opportunity came up, we knew it made sense.”
Museum cafés have been hit-or-miss in Austin. The one located in the Blanton Museum of Art’s admin building attracts a steady crowd from the University of Texas campus, state workers from nearby office towers and a flow of casual visitors. The Bullock Texas State History Museum’s unpretentious eatery, on the other hand, has gone through several iterations without building a big outside following.
The Épicerie at the Contemporary — why not the Épicerie at Laguna Gloria? — benefits from the lack of nearby culinary competition in high-end Tarrytown, unless you count the private Westwood Country Club across the street, where the food is in fact quite good, if access is not general.